Premise about the land turtle’s safety and hazards
«Danger is my middle name!» (Austin Powers)
It is also true for your turtle: danger is its middle name. When a tortoise is in nature, its mission is to survive, avoiding the many dangers that surround it: ferocious predators, pungent cold, poisonous berries, and so on.
Can turtles do it well? Yes, they can, since turtles have been walking undisturbed on planet Earth for more than two hundred million years. About 300 thousand years ago, however, the greatest of dangers has arrived: man. At first the turtle did not pay much attention to it and continued to eat dandelion for a few thousand more centuries, but today land turtles risks extinction.
The turtle, in fact, is very resistant in the habitat in which it has lived since ages. In a different context, however, the tortoise becomes extremely weak and defenseless. In your garden, your testudo counts on you to protect it. That’s why I am about to show you the seven great dangers that endanger the health and life of your beautiful turtles.
Before starting, however, here are three important premises:
- Do not trust your turtle. Always remember that your land turtle, unfortunately, has no idea of what is good or bad. It can happily eat foods that kill it, or dig a nice hole under the fence and be killed under a car. The truth is that outside of the original habitat (here the article about the best land turtle’s habitat) that nature has designed for your turtle, it is you who shoud protect it.
- Do not trust your common sense. The turtle is a complex animal, very different from us. What is valid for us, often, can be harmful to them. The company, the warmth of winter, a slice of cake, a glass of milk may seem like beautiful ideas, but for your turtle they are not at all.
- Trust the vet. When you notice that your turtle is ill, is hurt or behaves strangely, it is very important that you ask a veterinarian.
7- Birds of pray, dogs, cats and other turtles
Does your turtle like the company? No, not at all. It is very difficult to imagine, because we are extremely social animals and suffer when we are alone and do not go out drinking beer together. The turtle, on the other hand, does not need other specimens to live happily.
This does not mean that we have to keep them alone: I have 14 turtles, coexisting quite peacefully. Sometimes, however, it can be useful to separate them, when they become particularly aggressive. Often, the females should be separated from the males. For safety reasons, it is always recommended to separate the baby turtles from the adult specimens, giving them a dedicated space.
Moreover, for the baby turtles, the great danger can come from the sky: owls and crows can fall on them, grasp them with their claws, take them far away and then eat them. The best solution is a net, lying horizontally on the terrarium, to prevent access to birds of prey.
And the other pets? If cats and small dogs are used to turtles since puppies, then there is no problem. They will live together, alternating curiosity and indifference, without damaging them. The danger, however, can come from felines away in your garden or from big exuberant dog who think it is a stone with paws. In particular, dogs, if medium or large, can be a real danger for turtles even after years of peaceful cohabitation.
Cats can prey on little tortoises and the powerful jaws of larger dogs can cause serious damage to the carapace, so watch out.
6 – Overturning and high water
The turtle has many advantages but it is not among the most athletic animals: that’s why tortoise overturning is quite common. Healthy specimens often manage to return to position, but it happena that they are not able to. If your turtle stays too long on the back, it risks suffocating and dying.
Turtles often roll over as they enter the water jar, risking to drown. A solution? Stones, branches and balances in your terrarium can help the turtles find a support to turn over more easily. Another important precaution: the water depth should not be more than 1 or 2 centimeters, to avoid the risk of drowning.
5 – Mice
Mice and rats are among the most dangerous animals for turtles. During the winter hibernation, when your testudos slumber in the cellars or in their holes, the rodents can find them and crunch them terribly, mutilating them and killing them. The turtles, unfortunately, are totally defenseless and mice can eat them in peace. This is why during winter, to avert the danger, I recommend putting the turtle in an anti-intrusion space, equipped with nets or closures that make impossible to access small animals from the outside.
4 – The lawnmower
If your turtles could represent their nightmare, they would design a lawnmower. Green-browny and always intent on grazing grass, they can get under the rotating blades that cut your lawn. Unfortunately, these accidents are very frequent and cause very serious injuries which in most cases are fatal.
Next to the mower, another danger is given by cars, crushing the turtles of the yard. The danger is real but the solution is simple: when you cut the grass or get into your car, make sure your turtles are all safe in their terrarium.
3 – The wrong food
A verydangerous enemy of your land turtles is the wrong food. Meat, milk, bread and vegetables rich in phosphorus slowly poison it causing body suffering and considerable malformations. Once upon a time there was the mistaken belief that Testudo was omnivorous, because she ate everything that was offered to it. The truth is that the turtle has no idea about what is good to eat.
Just like cigarette smoke for us, the problems caused are not obvious right away. It is very important that your turtle eat field grass and leaves for 90% of its diet; fruit and vegetables should not exceed 10%.
2 – Cold: the land turtle’s hell
The turtle needs warm to live and cold can kill it. What is tcold for turtles? Turtle Cold is very different from ours: 21 Celsius degrees, for example, are a nice temperature for us but represent a terrible danger for the turtle.
Many people bring their turtles home during without a heating lamp. After all – our common sense will give – the 23 Celsius degrees we have at home are certainly more pleasant than the 7 Celsius degrees we have in the cellar.
The problem is that the turtle’s organism manages to hibernate when temperatures fall below 10 Celsius degrees and can live well only when temperatures are above 25 degrees. The hell of the turtles has no flames, but temperatures ranging from 10 to 23 degrees.
In this thermal bracket, in fact, the turtles are not able to turn off the engines (hibernation) but they are not even able to move and do their activities, because they are suffering from hypothermia.
With the few forces they have, they will try to move exclusively to eat something, and then stay sleepy and immobile so as to avoid to waste precious energy. Unfortunately, the turtle can not call for help: it might seem a semi-lethargy, but it is a real hell that can last for months and weaken it until death.
The solution? If your turtle can not face hibernation, you should prepare an inner terrarium, with a UV lamp that guarantees warm areas at 25-30 Celsius degrees. If your turtle can face hibernation, make sure that the temperature remains permanently between 4 and 8 Celsius degrees.
1 – Men
Land turtles have survived the dinosaurs, but after millions and millions of years tortoises are endangered because of the men. Remember that those who take a wild tortoise in the wild are hurting them and are committing a criminal offense.
However, you can be their great benefactor by taking care of them, curing them, feeding them and helping them. Remember to provide them with a healthy environment (here you can find my article about the best land turtle’s habitat), as similar as possible to their natural habitat and to accompany them to the vet when they are sick. You will be a conscious and prepared owner if you do so. What is more, you will be their most extraordinary ally.